run hard upon the rocks five miles from land, off Cape Fear
, while going at full speed.
, bewildered, gave the order to let go the bow anchor, when she instantly drove upon its fluke, piercing her forward compartments and letting in a deluge of water.
An hour later, she was hard and fast upon Frying Pan Shoals, one compartment filled to the water-line, and her forward berths afloat, her Captain
manifestly incompetent, and now nearly distracted.
The coast in sight was strongly held by the enemy, whose horse patrol could be descried from the ship; and any Confederate cruiser, darting out from Cape Fear river
, would have found the steamship and all on board an easy prey.
An ordinary squall would very soon have broken up the vessel and strewed her wreck along the sands.
Toward noon, a steamer hove in sight, which, cautiously approaching, roved to be the U. S. gunboat Mount Vernon
, of the squadron blockading Wilmington
Her commander, O. S. Glisson
, came on board, and placed his vessel at the service of Gen. Butler
A hawser from the Mount Vernon
was attached to the Mississippi
, and many fruitless attempts made to drag her off. Three hundred of the soldiers were transferred to the Mount Vernon
; shells were thrown overboard; and every device known to nautical experience tried to move the imperiled ship — all in vain.
As the sun went down, the wind rose, and the waves swelled, till the huge ship began to roll and beat upon the rocks, the danger of wreck constantly increasing.
At length, just after 7 P. M., and when the tide was within an hour of flood, she moved forward a few feet and was fairly afloat; slowly following the piloting Mount Vernon
— the lead for a whole hour showing but six inches of water under her keel.
At midnight. both cane to anchor in the Cape Fear
, and were next morning, which was calm, on their way to Port Royal
, where the Mississippi
was unladen and repaired ; but was run aground again while moving down to the mouth of the harbor.
was now deposed, Acting-Master Sturgis
, of the Mount Vernon
, appointed to his place; the troops once more debarked, and the ship pulled into deep water by the help of all the tugs in port.
She again put to sea March 13th, having been eleven days in the port; and seven more brought her safely in sight of Ship Island
; where so heavy a gale was blowing that landing troops was for two days impossible.
It was the 25th of March when--30 days from Hampton Roads
— they were debarked on that desolate sand-bank; where Gen. Butler
was soon deep in consultation with Captains Farragut
, of the Navy, as well as with his military associates.
Of these, Lt. Godfrey Weitzel
, who had for two years been stationed at Fort St. Philip
, and who had traversed all the adjacent country, duck-shooting, was able to give the fullest and most valuable information.
made him his chief engineer.
It was decided that the first attack on the forts defending the passage of the Mississippi
below New Orleans should be made by the fleet; Capt. Porter
, with his 21 bomb-schooners, anchoring below them and bombarding them till they should be reduced,